The Smell of Sawdust


My Paw Paw Kelly (grandfather) liked to work with wood. He had a workshop in a shed beyond the swing set and the garden. He would make fanciful things mostly. My favorite was a little girl in a red dress sitting on a swing. He hung her in the front yard from a tree, and she always made me feel welcomed whenever we visited his bosky home.

Like Paw Paw (and my creative Maw Maw), I’ve always found working with my hands interesting. I like to learn new things and shape something into something else. Sewing, painting, photography, gardening, woodworking, writing, and so on: they all stem from a need to make.

Humans are awesome that way. But, sometimes we make without conscious planning. We gather our materials without wondering about where they came from or how they are created.

My friend Silas Kyler made it his mission to remind us. He took his passion for woodworking and turned it into a beautiful documentary called Felled and a how-to book called The Art and Craft of Wood: A Practical Guide to Harvesting, Choosing, Reclaiming, Preparing, Crafting, and Building with Raw Wood. Both offer a glimpse into craftsmanship from start to finish and a real plea to look at the possibilities in things we take for granted. Like the Lorax, Silas and his colleagues “speak for the trees” and speak through them.

Like my grandfather, they are carrying on a tradition as old as civilization.

I love that smell of sawdust, it evokes so many memories… and possibilities.

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